July 21, 2024
New research on giant radio galaxies defies conventional wisdom
Radio galaxies have long been known to be powered by twin jets which inflate their lobes and create giant cavities.
Radio galaxies have long been known to be powered by twin jets which inflate their lobes and create giant cavities.

Conventional wisdom tells us that large objects appear smaller as they get farther from us, but this fundamental law of classical physics is reversed when we observe the distant universe.

Astrophysicists at the University of Kent simulated the development of the biggest objects in the universe to help explain how galaxies and other cosmic bodies were formed. By looking at the distant universe, it is possible to observe it in a past state, when it was still at a formative stage. At that time, galaxies were growing and supermassive black holes were violently expelling enormous amounts of gas and energy. This matter accumulated into pairs of reservoirs, which formed the biggest objects in the universe, so-called giant radio galaxies. These giant radio galaxies stretch across a large part of the Universe. Even moving at the speed of light, it would take several million years to cross one.

Professor Michael D. Smith of the Centre for Astrophysics and Planetary Science, and student Justin Donohoe collaborated on the research. They expected to find that as they simulated objects farther into the distant universe, they would appear smaller, but in fact they found the opposite.

Professor Smith said: “When we look far into the distant universe, we are observing objects way in the past—when they were young. We expected to find that these distant giants would appear as a comparatively small pair of vague lobes. To our surprise, we found that these giants still appear enormous even though they are so far away.”

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